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The electoral playing field in Zimbabwe - August 2004
Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI)
October 27, 2004

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Executive Summary
This survey finds that

  • A significant number (37%) of potential voters are not registered as voters.
  • 50% of respondents have not received any voter education at all.
  • There is a worrying level of lack of awareness of the proposed electoral reforms. Only 17% of the people interviewed are aware of these reforms.
  • A slight majority (54%) is not supportive of the powers the reforms give to the President to appoint the chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission.
  • Most Zimbabweans want their fellow Zimbabweans abroad to be allowed to cast their votes.
  • Given the problems encountered during the presidential election in 2002, when large numbers of people were unable to cast their vote, most respondents are not supportive of the idea to limit voting to one day.
  • Opinion is almost split on the intended use of transparent ballot boxes, with 53% of the respondents in support
  • An overwhelming majority (73%) is in favour of counting ballot papers at the polling stations at which they would have been cast.
  • While a majority (51%) says the reforms proposed would level the playing field, 46% also say AIPPA and POSA should be repealed.
  • Over half of the respondents interviewed report electoral offenses, with violence and intimidation being the most prevalent.
  • 64% of all the people interviewed are not in favour of the opposition boycotting the elections if their reform demands are not met. Further analysis shows that 54% of those who indicated they are MDC supporters do not favour an election boycott.

Since the year 2000 Zimbabwe has been at the centre of the world’s attention. The rejection of the draft constitution resulted in the land occupations and the most closely fought election in the history of this country. In 2002 came the presidential election and with it arguably the best voter turnout since the 1980 election. For the first time in the history of elections in this country the voting period was extended due to the large number of people who had not cast their vote by the end of the initial two day voting period.

Both elections had their share of controversy but at the root of all the discussion that was generated was the issue of the state of the electoral playing field. The parliamentary election resulted in a total of 37 court cases that challenged the outcome. In addition the 2002 presidential election results are themselves a subject of litigation. To date none of these cases have been finalized.

As Zimbabwe heads for the 2005 parliamentary election, the issue of a level playing field has again been thrust into the limelight. The MDC began the "sparring" by submitting a fifteen point petition demanding the leveling of the playing field. Later condensed into five key demands, these were:

  • Restore the rule of law
  • Restore basic freedoms and rights
  • Establish an independent electoral commission
  • Restore public confidence in the electoral commission, and
  • Restore secrecy to the ballot

ZANU-PF, as if to pull the rug from under the feet of the MDC, then announced its intention to introduce "key" changes to the electoral system. The ruling party proposed the setting up of an independent electoral commission whose chairperson would be a presidential appointee, voting in one day, the use of transparent ballot boxes and the counting of votes at the polling stations at which they would have been cast.

Subsequent to this political maneuvering the SADC held a meeting in Mauritius where the regional body came up with principles and guidelines for democratic elections. Primarily, these guidelines say that member states should ensure full participation of their citizens in the political process. In a further twist to the whole issue the MDC suspended its participation in all elections in the country until government adopts the SADC principles and guidelines.

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